Indiana murder suspect arrested in Columbia

Friday, July 17, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A man wanted for murder in Indiana was arrested Tuesday evening by Columbia police.

Othello Harris, 24, was arrested at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday after an officer on patrol near Whitegate and Towne streets matched his description to a suspect wanted for another crime in the area.

Harris was arrested but fled after giving a false name, Public Information Officer Jessie Haden said.

“The officer managed to catch him quickly and there was no struggle,” Haden said. Harris was charged with resisting arrest.

Police do not know how long Harris had been in Columbia and if he knew anyone in the area, Haden said.

Diane Poulton, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office in Lake County, Ind., confirmed Harris is wanted in Indiana on suspicion of murder in connection with a March 2008 shooting in Gary, Ind. Harris is charged with fatally shooting 22-year-old Jacob Cottom at the housing project where Harris lived.  

After the shooting, Harris is suspected of having called two friends who helped clean up the blood and wrap Cottom’s body in a shower curtain, Poulton said. Harris tried to dispose of the body by dousing it in gasoline and setting it on fire.

A warrant for Harris' arrest had also been issued in Indiana on suspicion of possession of cocaine, according to a probable cause statement filed in the 13th Circuit Court.

Harris is scheduled for an extradition hearing on Aug. 14 in the 13th Circuit Court. If convicted of all charges, Harris could face a 65-year prison sentence, Poulton said.

Missourian reporter Christine Lesicko contributed to this report.

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